BCC chief John Longworth quits over Brexit backing

Posted On: 
6th March 2016
John Longworth has left his post as director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce after saying Britain could have a “brighter” future outside the European Union.
John Longworth

Mr Longworth was suspended by the business group in the wake of the comments, as the BCC has taken a position of neutrality ahead of the referendum.

In a statement this evening, the BCC has clarified that “no politician or interest group had any influence” on the suspension after Leave campaigners suggested No 10 or others could have been behind the decision.

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“His subsequent resignation was agreed mutually between Mr Longworth and the BCC board, and there were no external factors involved,” a statement issued by BCC president Nora Senior read.

A statement from BCC president read: “John Longworth and the BCC board recognise that John’s personal view on the referendum is likely to create confusion regarding the BCC’s neutral stance going forward.

“In light of this, John has taken the decision to step down as director-general and his resignation has been accepted by the board with effect from 6 March 2016…

 “All representatives of the BCC have the right to personal and political views on the key issues of the day.  However, they are not expected to articulate these views while acting in their professional capacity, as their views could be misconstrued as representing the position of the organisation as a whole.

“The BCC will continue to use its position to reflect the varied views of the business communities it serves, articulate their concerns, and seek greater clarity and information from both sides.”

‘PROJECT FEAR’

Boris Johnson was one of those to speak out in defence of Mr Longworth after his suspension.

"This is a man who reached the conclusion - after long reflection and a lifetime's experience of business - that it would be better to Vote Leave,” the Mayor of London said in a statement.

"He speaks for the many small and medium sized businesses - the lifeblood of the economy - who cannot understand why they should comply with more and more regulation, over which this country has no democratic control."

Mr Johnson argued it was wrong that "when someone has the guts to dissent from the establishment line, he or she is immediately crushed by the agents of 'project fear'".

No 10 insisted it was “simply not true” that it had been involved in the suspension, after Tory MP and Leave campaigner David Davis called for clarification.